Monday, 27 September 2010

Just Acquired. . .

Oh, I am a sucker for my Folio books. Two lovely new volumes came in the post this week. I love this image on Kafka's Metamorphosis. Guilty confession - I have never read any Kafka before, but I certainly will now. And this edition of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front is illustrated with archival photographs of German soldiers during the war.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Art and Literature in the Inter-War Years. . .

This review in the Guardian has really made me want to read Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artist and the Imagination From Virginia Woolf to John Piper by Alexandra Harris.

From the review, written by Kathryn Hughes:

They loved country churches, tea in china cups wreathed with roses, old manor houses, abandoned fishing smacks, Gypsy caravans and, just as important, the soft English rain that smudged the outlines of all these precious things. Above all, their sensibility was local. While the other modernism saw national boundaries as just one more example of pernicious Ruritanian debris, romantic moderns celebrated the way England's crinkled coast enclosed the rooted and particular. Trees, stones, bodies, walls: these were no longer the flotsam that needed to be excluded from art. They were what art was all about.

I love this inter-war period of art and literature in all of its many beautiful and varied forms. I'll definitely be getting my hands on a copy of this.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Off to TIFF. . .

The Toronto Film Festival starts tomorrow and I'm enormously excited and prepared to exist on very little sleep for the next ten days. I have tickets to 20 films, with a four day, two time zone business trip sandwiched in the middle of it - I'm literally leaving one film to go straight to the airport. However, I love the rushing around and this year I really lucked out and got almost all of my top choices. I'll be avoiding most of the big Hollywood films that will show up later in theatres, but I had to make an exception for Colin Firth's new movie, The King's Speech. He plays George VI, forced to become king after his brother's abdication and terrified of public speaking because of his stammer. Geoffrey Rush plays his speech therapist and Helena Bonham Carter plays the Queen Mum. It's already getting some early Oscar buzz.

I'm a HUGE fan of Kristin Scott Thomas and so I'm tickled to be going to both of her new French films, Sarah's Key and Love Crime. And I'll be seeing Guillaume Canet's new film Little White Lies as well. Oooh, and Godard's Film Socialisme and Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, and Christopher Plummer's new movie Beginners and Rio Sex Comedy which stars the fabulous Charlottte Rampling, and other really intriguing films from India, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Germany and Turkey.
I'll try and post the odd review if I have time, or I'll wrap it all up at the end and list my favourites.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Stocking up on Fall "Textbooks". . .

Okay, so I'm not going back to school, but I do always get that nostalgic ache in September for a pile of shiny new books. A trip to my favourite independent bookstores was a must this weekend. Here's what caught my eye:

I've been reading a lot in the media and on blogs about the re-issue of two novels exploring Nazi Germany by Hans Keilson - Death of the Adversary , translated by Ivo Jarosy, and Comedy In a Minor Key, translated by Damion Searls. Love the covers and I have been fascinated by this literary period since reading Hans Fallada and Irmgard Keun. I bought them both.

In my fantasy shop, there would definitely be a section devoted to bookstores, both real and imaginary. So A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, translated by Alison Anderson. was a no-brainer. This sounds like a wonderful read about a Paris bookstore that only offers literary masterpieces as chosen by a top-secret committee, who subsequently are mysteriously targeted and threatened. This is published by the wonderful Europa Editions, one of a handful of presses whose publishing choices I trust implicitly. So I also picked up The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leïla Marouane. It doesn't take much for me to pick up a book with Paris in the title, but this story of an Algerian man looking for an apartment and sexual encounters, narrated by an unsympathetic female, really intrigued me.

Two American writers I've been wanting to read for a while now have books on the pile. Many people have recommended the short stories of Lydia Davis to me and I definitely will get around to buying her collection soon. But in the meantime, I was drawn to her novel The End of the Story, about a woman trying to write a novel about a love affair. I'm normally quite skeptical about the review blurbs that get plastered onto the first pages of paperbacks, but this one from the Village Voice sold me: "The palettte of Davis's novel reminded me of green tea, bone, quartz light, and dried apricots, and its French room tone buzzes with the obsessiveness of Michel Leiris, the saltwater air of Jane Bowles and the grouchy who-cares-a-damn silence of Jean Rhys."

I also bought Kate Walbert's A Short History of Women, a novel tracing the twentieth century through five generations, starting with a suffragette who starves herself in 1914.

I can never resist a beautifully designed book, and Prose, a collection of short stories by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Martin Chambers, is a really gorgeous, inexpensive hardcover with lovely textured red endpapers. Bernhard is a writer I keep meaning to get around to reading. I have most of his novels on my shelf, and hopefully these stories will kickstart my exploration of his work.

And finally, this one is a bit of an oddity for me - Tom McCarthy's Tintin and the Secret of Literature. I've never read a Tintin cartoon before, but I have read and loved all three of McCarthy's novels - Remainder, Men in Space and his latest C. When I read a review that suggested C was inspired by McCarthy's interest in Tintin, well mine was also piqued. Since these cartoons first appeared in 1929, they are clearly a part of the cultural history of the time and I'm curious to read all about them.
This should keep me occupied for at least a semester.